Tuesday, October 31, 2006
I took Pappy and neighbor dog Molly to the dog park Sunday morning, part of the normal drill. All of the lamers who had skipped Saturday morning came up with various excuses. At least two or three had the same story of showing up, finding the dog area empty, and going for a walk in the park instead.
There was a crush at the gate when a newbie couple with a young Golden Retriever showed up, and so I helped get the dogs backed up to let them in. In the melee, Pappy decided, as he sometimes does, to mount the Golden. As I was going to get him off, the woman shrieked "NO!" When I told her it was okay, that he was neutered and I was getting him off, she said "NO IT IS NOT OKAY." Then I told her that maybe off-leash parks were a bad idea for her.
I am a huge prude, and Pappy's mounting is embarrassing for me-- you won't find me mentioning it much here. The Golden owner clearly thought Pappy was doing something terrible to her dog, and that bugs me more. He doesn't do it to a lot of dogs, and he's never "excited" during the process-- he generally seems to expect the dog to turn around and wrestle. One of the benefits of the dog park has been that other more experienced owners have reassured me that it is fairly typical of females as well as males, and encouraged me not to make the fatal error of interpreting the behavior in human terms. Once started with a dog Pappy is a little relentless about going back for a few minutes (he is a terrier), but these owners have given me the space to try and train him to get off on command without getting wiggy at him.
So I spent most of Sunday's visit trying to keep Pappy out of the vicinity of the Golden. Her spouse/boyfriend seemed fairly cool about things and beckoned to Pappy a couple of times, but the woman was too busy shrilling at her dog for playing with other dogs. Eeek, I wish that dog well and I hope I never see them again.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Pappy is a resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. An "alternative" community, we like to say this is where the hippies fled when the local communes shut down in the 70's. Whereas we would be considered bleeding-heart liberals in a "red" state, around here we fall squarely into the more conservative end of the bell curve. You always feel sad for the Republicans in the city, both of them; their lawn signs are drowned in the torrent of signs for opposing candidates and viewpoints.
Takoma Park has a friendly, small-town feel in the looming shadow of DC, and we have a diverse group of neighbors and local celebrities. Alternately known as "Azalea City" (because there are lots) and "Tree City" (because there are lots, and you can't cut any down), I've been thinking our true symbol ought to be the car bumper. Bumper stickers are a way of life here, and you'll routinely see references to world peace, the goddess, gay rights, vegans, midwives, UFOs, Democratic candidates, and, of course, uncomplimentary references to the President on the backs of the ten-year old minivans and beat-up economy cars. Personally, our cars keep a low profile.
By the way, Takoma Park is noted for being a Nuclear-Free Zone, but I never have been sure exactly what that means.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I did eventually make it to the dog park yesterday after the rain abated, taking neighbor dog Molly along with Pappy. The fair-weather dog parkers had skipped the day, and the only ones there was Piper and her owner. Piper's owner and I got into a discussion of aggression worries about our dogs-- "growls when on leash", "sometimes lunges at dogs entering the house", "mounts other dogs".
I left the dog area and took the dogs on a walk around the rest of the park. I began to consider how odd our conversation would sound to some others. While we're worrying about whether our dogs are companionable enough, somewhere else someone is saying "he's just not aggressive enough", "if an intruder yelled at him he'd just slink away", "I wouldn't trust him to guard his food bowl". Poor dogs can't win. They have to be all things to all people.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
It's a rainy Saturday, putting a crimp in Pappy's dog park plans. We're likely to head over to my elderly Dad's at some point to drop off groceries. My father is in poor shape, and lives in a "progressive care" facility. They feed him, but he is a queer duck and gets hankerings for odd foods that are horrible for him. He's 81 and his condition is pretty rotten, so we can't see denying him. Also, he'd make our lives flat-out miserable by calling us at 3AM every morning asking for pickles, bacon, japanese rice crackers, and sugary cereal if we didn't keep him stocked... no, wait, he already does that. All I can say is may all the gods bless those of you who are caring for elderly parents in your homes; getting old isn't for sissies, and neither is caring for them.
But griping is not the point of my posting. Whenever I take Pappy to the old-folks home on a grocery run, most of the residents are just thrilled. Not like kids, who often seem to want to pet your dog like there's some secret competition to touch everything with fur. I am always stopped in the hall by residents who want to gush about Pappy. I wish they were in better shape to care for a pet themselves, because it seems it would do them a world of good. I can see how people get into training dogs for "pet therapy for the elderly" programs, because the mere presence of the dog elicits such joy. Sadly, a lot of the nursing staff are terrified of dogs, so I have to be careful to give them a wide berth.
It's a shame Pappy is a bit of a spazz in strange surroundings, getting a little skittish when strangers get too close. Otherwise he'd be a pretty fine therapy dog. It doesn't take much-- a little calm and a little charm.
Labels: get a dog
Friday, October 27, 2006
I've submitted my blog for National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), sponsored by fussy.org. I'm committing to one post a day for the entire month of November. Though I've been keeping that pace recently, I think it will be harder than it sounds. Thankfully November has only 30 days... phew.
I learned about it via the Blog Pound (which seems to have had some problems with hacking phishers or phishing hackers last night-- making the idea of hosting one's own blog a lot less attractive).
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Back Yard, 7:10AM
The home owner (that would be me) steps into the yard to check on the dogs, Pappy and Molly, during their morning play date. The scene is dark, and there is a cool nip in the fall morning air. The home owner shreiks in horror as he sees the three-foot shrub (the bottom branches seen to the right of the downspout in this photo) reduced to a stump surrounded by a pile of chewed branches. The home owner scolds the dogs who stare at him blankly, and then crumples in a shuddering heap as a sense of futility passes over him.
This is the evidence we have collected thusfar: a) two days ago a witness (me again) found the dogs quarreling over a branch from the same bush; b) Pappy has some early history of chewing branches off of the small maple tree, but has been pretty good by himself out back for some time; c) Molly likes to rest in the vicinity of this bush; d) Molly has a bit of a chewing issue, and has to be crated at home during the day because of it. The circumstantial evidence points to involvement by Molly, with possible complicity from Pappy.
Last year, before we got Pappy, we pumped a lot of moolah into landscaping the yard. Since the wonderous Pappy came into our lives, this investment has been in decline-- the hostas are pulp, there are well worn paths through the lariope and ivy, and bushes have lost many branches to fast moving dogs. To have this disappointment driven home by a wanton shrub mauling was pretty distressing this morning. I'm left pondering the wisdom of these manic morning play dates. Molly's owner was pretty sad about it too.
The worst thing is that Molly's favorite pink ball (seen here again) might have prevented all this-- once that is in her mouth, she rarely puts it down. Molly routinely attempts to smuggle the ball out of the yard when we are taking her home, and it occurs to me that it disappeared earlier this week when I took it from her and left it out front. Note to self... must replace ball.
I came across this Onion article... and it's Pappy that is a good boy. I'm glad we settled that.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
In reading other dog blogs, I realize that Pappy's blog is missing much of the gooey warmth and dog-as-child references of other sites. This is due to local regulations in the DC metro area requiring clear delineation between pet and owner in all public statements. I can assure you that, behind closed doors, we have all of the shmoopy talk of other doggy households.
With this in mind, you may re-sentimentalize Pappy's blog for your personal use with the following procedure:
- Copy the full text of Pappy's blog into a text editor.
- Search all instances of "Pappy" and replace with "Sweetie Boy".
- Search all instances of "dog" and replace with "fur-son".
Monday, October 23, 2006
Color me outraged. Each day the Daily Puppy posts an adorable poppet on their pages. Yes, they have a few rescues and mixes, so I can't knock them for being totally elitist. But what about those bazillions of older dogs! Why fuel the cult of puppyism dominating our land and undermining our shelters?
The main source of my fury is that we got Pappy at one year, and don't even have a picture of his puppyhood. So he can't earn his rightful place as "Most Unconventionally Good Looking Dog for Life" at the top of the Daily Puppy home page. Yes, they do have an adult dog page as a consolation prize for puppies past their prime, but the only visitors are people who got lost trying to find the puppy of the day.
So I doctored up a photo of Pappy (sitting in the mud pit that is our back yard) as a reconstruction of the adorable puppy Pappy in the lovely back yard we'd have if we never let him use it. I hope this persuades you that Daily Puppy can end their search for the dog beautiful. And y'all can bow down too.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
For the dog owner in northern climes, the prospect of winter has you staring down the double barrels of freezing cold dog walks and extreme guilt over cutting them short. For me, the recipe for cooking up some enthusiasm for walks in the bitter weather is the following: get an audio player and listen to good audio books. I find myself anxious to get out there and listen to the next chapter, and it takes my mind off of the conditions.
I'm not sure many people are aware of this, but an increasing number of public library systems, including ours in Montgomery County, Maryland, have relationships with online audio book services like Netlibrary.com. All you need is a library card, and you can create a free account to "check out" audio books to download to a computer or audio player for several weeks. You aren't necessarily going to find all the bestsellers there, but I find plenty of interesting books. You can also borrow books on CD from the library, but ripping these to a digital audio player is some trouble and is of questionable legality.
You need a digital audio player supporting the appropriate Digital Rights Management (for copy protection) for the audio download service you are using-- for example, an iPod doesn't have the PlaysForSure DRM support needed for NetLibrary, while other players may not be able to play iTunes downloads. I use an inexpensive Creative Zen Nano player, and it works very well with content from Netlibrary.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
After taking Pappy to the regular dog park this morning, we headed out to Quiet Waters Dog Park in Annapolis with my auntie.
When Quiet Waters is mentioned among dog owners in our area, it is spoken of with such reverence. "There are separate areas for big and little dogs", "they have a dog beach", "there are miles of trails". A lot of people head out there with the notion that this is some pet Disney World, and some come back a little disappointed.
Don't get me wrong, I looove the park. It's about a mile from my aunt's house, so we go for a visit, bundle the dogs into the car, and head on out to the park. And, if you have a swimmer, it has one of the few beaches in striking distance of DC which allow dogs (and has nice pet showers nearby). In an over-regulated, over-populated region like ours, this is really hard to come by.
But the truth is that the beach is only a couple of hundred feet long, and can be crowded. The separate big/little dog areas are nice and big, but not categorically different from dog exercise areas nearer our house. Ditto the walking trails. It's a pretty terrific park, just don't be picturing a pet utopia like Dog Island (more on Dog Island at Snopes.com).
Friday, October 20, 2006
If you are not yet a dog owner, you just might want to stop reading now. My wife is not quick to wake up, but she has an unfortunate sensitivity to the strains of Pappy's recent late night heaves. She's been instantly tuned in when Pappy has been "looking for O'Rourke" in the wee hours-- for some reason always on the carpeting on the second from the top step. There have been a couple of incidents this week.
He's quick to (really, turn back now if you want to maintain your rosy picture of Pappy) lap it up, so she doesn't get a good look at what's disagreeing with him. I'm a bit concerned that he's developing an allergy to his food, but this is happening five or ten hours after feeding. He's still energetic and in good spirits, so I don't think he's ill. Maybe it's just all the stuffing from his toys.
I'm not sure Pappy actually invented the tousle haired look, but he certainly sets the standard. He's got full-body bed head.
As Pappy took me on a walk through the ominously dark park last night, we stumbled on someone in the gloom. A big guy in a hoodie, a goon really, was practicing Kung Fu moves on a sapling in the pitch black. I was a bit leery of him, but Pappy just went off on the guy. I halfheartedly told Pappy to quiet down, but was secretly kind of pleased. My wife often asks herself whether he would protect us in a dangerous situation, and it looks like Pappy's our 36-pound badass. You'd never know it to meet him-- normally he has trouble keeping his tail from wagging.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
It looks like some snafu has knocked the Ayatollah Mugsy's blog out of commission. I may have to convert from the Pug Life Ministries to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I hope my credits transfer.
By the way, for those of you curious about the FSM's Pastafarian movement but have a limited attention span, there's a nice little Flash thingy here.
Pappy is always standing at the sliding door to the back yard, pining to go outside and chase a ball after dinner. Now, in the heart of the Fall, this takes place in total darkness. When we first tried this I was sure that he'd lose the ball immediately, followed by him searching frantically with his tail whisking in circles and the occasional whine. Then, I envisioned, we'd be done until we found the ball the next morning.
But this isn't what happened. He was retreiving balls in the pitch black. He was snatching a ball out of mid-air, when I couldn't even find it after he dropped it at my feet. So I asked myself how he did that. A dog's bionic hearing is great, but it isn't radar. Hearing a ball's bounce is helpful, but won't tell you its trajectory and he was catching them on the fly. Smell is great for finding stationary balls, but there's some latency in scent that isn't going be as helpful in chasing them in motion.
So it had to be something to do with sight. But how can a dog who can't see the treat on the floor in front of him see a ball at night? Once, on a walk, he nearly desocketed my arm chasing after a pipe sticking out of the ground that stood a little too much like a squirrel. I looked up a couple of articles on dog sight here and here. Though dogs don't just see in black and white, their vision is only dichromatic (blue/yellow) and they don't distinguish many colors well. Apparently their visual acuity also isn't great-- if a human's vision is 20/20, a typical dog may only see from 20 feet what the person sees from 75 feet. But dogs have great night vision. First off, they have a much higher ratio of rods to cones than humans-- these are the high-definition, motion sensitive, black and white receptors in the retina. Humans have greater concentrations of rods in the peripheral vision, sometimes making it easier to see things at night by not looking directly at them. Dogs also have a "tapitum lucidum," a reflective layer behind the photoreceptors. This is what gives them the creepy glowing eyes at night. With the extra reflective layer, somehow the wavelength of dim light is enhanced providing better contrast.
Bottom line... looks like I am going out after dinner to toss balls all winter long.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Having failed miserably in gaining Pappy the exposure he deserves via this blog, I have been shamelessly peddling his likeness to other web sites. The latest place is SluttyPuppy.com! Check lucky number 45 to see his soft core antics. The photo is from early in his career, and he did it just to put kibble on the table.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
As a follow on to my bit on the dog IQ testing, I'd like to examine the question of whether Pappy, and terriers in general, are blithering ee-jits. The opening example Stanley Coren uses in "Intelligence of Dogs" is the case of the Dandy Dinmont Terrier. He describes them as dogs bred to go with reckless abandon into dens after foxes and otters as large or larger than themselves. One might admire their courage, but "a more intelligent dog would simply say... 'this is too dangerous'". He then goes on to infer that they are untrainable morons. Ooooh, them's fightin' words.
I'm not sure Pappy is exactly the kind of terrier that Coren had in mind. I mean he's a bit leggy to be headed down the fox hole. In keeping with his terrier kin, he is reckless and obsessive in chasing things, and has a prey-drive that won't quit. But he also has a pretty good instinct for self-preservation-- when he goes flying around after balls he never collides with anything, and he never rough-houses with a dog that might take it the wrong way. He's very distractable, but where there are treats involved he has total focus. He's not well trained, but he's certainly not untrainable.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Okay, the eating each other part is probably an overstatement. But neighbor dog, Molly, did chew off Pappy's leash on the way to the dog park. As I opened the car door to let the dogs out, I had a moment of baffled amazement as Pappy ran towards the gate with only three inches of leash attached to his collar.
Prior to the dog park, Pappy was absolutely nutzo all morning and others had similar stories about how manic their dogs had been. The moon isn't full, so the only reasonable explanation is the sudden cold snap in the Metro DC area. Even Ollie the Collie was wrestling rather than just doing color commentary (barking), so you know something singular was going on. Tonight we are supposed to have the first freeze, so I dread the Pappy antics tomorrow morning.
Since her first visit to the blog elicited the comment "I only saw text", this picture is in honor of Ollie's owner-- here's the old posting too. As usual, Pappy and Jack are at it; I think it's because they accessorize so well.
That's right, Pappy's Dog Blog has sold out. We've signed up with several dog blog registries in hopes of expanding the audience of the site beyond my wife and me. There's no denying it... we are a d-o-g b-l-o-g.
By the way, welcome to all of you folks arriving via DogsWithBlogs.com.au or WikiFido.com! Delighted to have you! Make yourself at home! Just ignore that selling out comment, 'kay?
To all of my long-time visitors, I can promise the same bitter cynicism mixed into the unabashed, mooshy, dog-love articles. We won't pander to dog owners, because we want to retain our very tiny crossover demographic of normal humans. This is in keeping with our mission of sucking all of you into adopting your own dog so that you too have something to blog about. By the way, have you visited Petfinder.com lately?
Thursday, October 12, 2006
In Stanley Coren's "Intelligence of Dogs" he proposes a series of tests to measure your dog's intelligence. There are some folks out there that get a little steamed about the real-world applicability of these tests, but you have to suspect that their dogs didn't do so well. To me, it looks like they'd be fun for most dogs and owners.This is a quick summary of the tests listed in the book:
- Act like you are taking the dog for a walk (get the leash, keys, coat) without walking towards the door. Does the dog race to you or the door in clear anticipation of the walk?
- Let the dog see you put a treat under an empty can. Does the dog knock over the can to get to the treat?
- Rearrange five pieces of furniture in a room when the dog is out of the house. Does the dog notice the difference and start investigating?
- Put a towel over the dog's head. Does the dog free himself within fifteen seconds?
- Stare intently at your dog for a few seconds, then smile broadly. Does the dog come to you or start wagging his tail?
- Let the dog see you put a hand towel over a treat. Does he retrieve the treat within fifteen seconds?
- Let the dog see you put a treat in the corner of a room, then lead him out of the room for a couple of seconds. When you let him back in does he go straight to the treat?
- The same as the previous test, only take the dog from the room for five minutes.
- Set up or use a table too low for the dog to get his head under, and place a treat underneath. Can he figure out how to use his paws to get to the treat?
- Call to the dog with a nonsense word twice, then call to him with his name. Does he wait until his name is called to come?
There are a couple of more tests that are hard to summarize in brief. The links here and here describe subsets of Coren's tests in more detail, including scoring.
In hopes of getting a leg up on the actual IQ tests, we tried an experiment with Pappy (I don't see anything wrong with getting a little advance practice, after all they have SAT prep classes). With him watching carefully, we dropped a small hand towel over a beloved tennis ball. He then started looking around everywhere in amazement as if he had witnessed an extraordinary disappearing act, completely oblivious to the big lump under the towel. I then recalled that, after a bath, he'll just stand there with the towel draped over his head and his tail wagging-- doesn't look like he'd do too well on that test either. I'm thinking he may not be one of the "high-flyers" on this doggy IQ test, but he's popular at the dog park and he sure is good looking.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
...or rather a Papette.
Every once in a while I like to trawl Petfinder.com to recall the excitment of searching for our perfect dog-- a woman at the dog park said she gets the kind of thrill from adoption sites that others get from internet porn. Today I came across this adoptable girl, Daisy. She looks like she has a lot of the old Pappy charm, and probably can see a bit better without so much grizzled brow.
Labels: get a dog
Monday, October 09, 2006
Well it's the Columbus Day holiday, so we had puppy Molly over for an extended play date this morning. There's something really primal about their favorite game, keep-away; as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Many dog blogs are written by wacky owners in the persona of their pup-- "my people are sooo cwazy and I love tweats." It sometimes works, like here and here, but it can get stale pretty quickly. I came across a more interesting, if not too frequently updated, blog about Thai street dogs here. Their gritty-but-happy stories, sort of a low-rent "Archy and Mehitabel", make Pappy's posh suburban lifestyle seem *yawn*. We're going to have to get Pappy some better adventures, or at least make some up.
By the way, if you want to see what a blog entry from a dog would actually look like, here it is:
(This was the product of ten minutes' work trying to get Pappy to walk across the keyboard or drop a ball on it. It's great that he is so disinclined to messing with our stuff, but it's not looking good for him typing the works of Shakespeare.)
Saturday, October 07, 2006
With Halloween fast approaching, BuyCostumes.com is flogging outfits for pets. Now, I'm not a big one for dressing up fido. In fact, I have strong reservations about sites whose raison d'être is to host embarassing photos of dogs in togs. But Pappy would look sharp in some cowboy duds.
Sadly, the pickings in western wear for your pets are pretty thin. The only cowboy I see is this Woody outfit, and it's really dorky-- might as well just put on a bandana and call it a day. This Wonder Woman outfit is fabulous, but Pappy would never be able to show his face at the dog park again.
Not that I'm gonna do it, but if you dressed up your dog you could enter him in the contest here.
After brief despair following the temporary failure of Google searches on Pappy's Blog, we are now back and hungrier than ever. If you want to be part of the phenomenon that is Pappy and you have a web site, this is your chance. You can now link to Pappy's Dog Blog on your site, and have this attractive icon appearing on your page.
All you need to do is embed the following HTML code somewhere on your web page, and you can consider yourself a full-fledged member of the Pappy Fan Club... for life.
Friday, October 06, 2006
I spent some time reviewing a Google image search of "Pappy", and did a thorough analysis of each entry's relevance to our own Pappy. In descending order, we have the following:
Then, of course, there's our boy at number 1:
Thursday, October 05, 2006
With it getting darker earlier in the evening, we are beginning to have to race home from work to get in Pappy's walk along Sligo Creek. Soon I'm going to have to find an alternate route, because the path isn't lit for ambles in the pitch black.
When we let Pappy out in the back yard after dinner, he's staying out a lot longer. Used to be we'd give him ten minutes, and he'd be waiting by the back door to get back in. Now he's happy to be alone out there for thirty or forty minutes, poking around and gnawing on tennis balls in the dark. When I call to see if he wants to come in he just looks at me blankly, as if to say "if you aren't going to come out and throw the ball, I'm not sure what good you are to me". Teenagers...
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" -- Andy Warhol
I mentioned in a past posting that Pappy's blog was Googlable. For a short time in the past couple of weeks you could even search on the terms Pappy's Dog Blog, unquoted, and we were number one in Google.
Suddenly, just in the last couple of days, pfffft-- we're gone. One or two searches work, but many of the old search terms that used to bring up Pappy's Blog are gone. Purged like yesterday's cache. This is probably how Kato Kaelin felt.
Edit: Weird...now the old searches work again on Google. There's something rinky-dink about that company. I don't know if they are going to make it.
Monday, October 02, 2006
One of the interesting ideas in my dog books is the concept of neoteny, or the retention of juvenile characteristics, as a common feature of almost all breeds of domesticated dogs (see this article). When you look at dogs in light of this, you really do see the "puppy-like" traits and behaviors.
One of the references used in a couple of the books concerns a 40-year experiment in domesticating Siberian Foxes to simplify their care in (originally) Soviet fur farms. After a just a few generations of selecting for tameness, the foxes underwent a number of seemingly unrelated physical and behavioral changes. They developed shorter snouts and floppy ears-- common to many canid puppies-- and multicolored fur, which undermined their value in the fur trade. They also took to barking, wagging their tails, and whining for joy at seeing a friendly face, which are behaviors unknown in wild foxes. They were just trying to make a less freaky fox, and they reinvented the dog in a person's lifetime.
There's a bit more about the study here.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
In my old posting on the dog park crew, I missed out on one of the regulars-- Truman, the German Shorthaired Pointer. Pappy and Truman don't play together that much, but I like his style. There's something about the look and athleticism of these dogs that I admire. Not that I am knocking Pappy, mind you.
The downside to these dogs is that they need a lot of exercise. They shed more than you'd expect, like beagles, but Truman's owner says she just takes him outside with one of those grooming gloves and strips him down once in a while. She's now falling hard for a seven month old buddy for Truman at the Mid-Atlantic GSP Rescue site.